American Nerd – Quotes from Benjamin Nugent

“It’s also just barely possible to think you make a statement about gender when you work a fake nerd look. While nerds, as everybody knows, tend to be male more often than female, dressing like a nerd rejects conventional ideas about what a hunky young man looks like. Since conventional notions of what makes a young man look handsome are so bound up with conveying power and wealth and the capacity for punching somebody out, making yourself look like a nerd on purpose is a gesture that says, “I renounce the privilege of being a young swinging dick.” At the very least, it’s a refusal to make your outfit a monument to your own authority. For a woman, dressing up as a fake nerd is a refusal of plumage. In an androgynous paradise where adults of both sexes look like enlarged spelling-bee champions, it’s easy to forget for a moment, or even an entire night of drinking beer, that privilege is unevenly distributed between genders. At least, it’s easy if you’re male.” (125)

“Leetspeak dates back to the early bulletin board systems of the 1980s, when even short messages were so arduous to send that users truncated “you are” to “u r” and so on … This new slang was developed largely by young men, and it has come to resemble, more than anything else, the language spoken by the delinquents in Anthony Burgess’s Clockwork Orange … Leetspeak shares with that fictional slang system a tendency to align good with violence and sex. In addition to rape, there’s slut as a word for being skilled. “I slut at SSBM,” for example, means “I’m good at Super Smash Bros. Melee.” One of the reasons to create your own elite slang system is to give yourself the feeling of belonging to a special, empowered group. The vocabulary of the language, in this case, reflects that will to power, the need for one-upmanship, the fantasy of violence and violent sex.” (155-156)
“I think about death; that is, I think about how little time we get and how much time we spend inventing and following rules that make us feel immortal and safe.” (209)
Nugent, Benjamin. American Nerd: The Story of My People. New York: Scribner, 2008. Print.

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